1. You Are More Than Your Illness.
Having experienced my fair share of mental illness, both my own and of close family and friends, it became apparent to me that although our brains may not be running as smoothly or ideally as they might at times, this dysfunction was a separate issue from our characters. Someone may not have the greatest eyesight or may suffer from asthma, but that doesn’t define who they are. Because our minds, our conscious thinking, has become synonymous with our character in modern culture, mental illness can be confused with personal integrity. We are all more than just our cognitive minds. Our brains can be far from user-friendly, but it is how we react and develop as individuals to our circumstances and how we let our shortcomings inform us and change us for the better that truly defines our character in our lifetime.
2. Your Thoughts Aren’t Real.
I was in London, smoking a cigarette and reading a book called “Stop Thinking, Start Living” that my Swedish friend had loaned me. It sounded trite, but a few pages in, my life was changed. It seems obvious, but the idea that thoughts aren’t reality was revolutionary to me. You are the thinker of your thoughts, just like you are the breather of each breath. Just because you have a thought doesn’t mean that it has a tangible and valuable connection to your life. Thoughts are always just a perception. Don’t take your thoughts so seriously, you can choose what perceptions you wish to indulge. Watch your thoughts as an observer and choose how you create your reality.
3. Ask For Help.
I used to think that I didn’t have a problem. I used to think that the battle that was going on in my brain was normal and that everyone had to deal with a mind that felt like a prison. It took me a long time to seek help, but eventually I did. Therapy helped a little at first and then, in combination with medication, my brain became a lot more functional and healthier. I no longer felt like I was in a dark tunnel with no light at the end (I’m being a tad dramatic, but just a tad.) You don’t need to feel unhappy and imprisoned within your mind. You deserve good mental health, so get yourself a team that will support you in your journey to happiness.
4. Move Forward.
It is easy to feel regret for the past. I am sometimes overtaken by a sense of guilt for not having discovered the tools I needed to operate at life on a higher level sooner. But you can’t live in the hypothetical land of “What if?” All that matters is what you do now. As soon as you understand yourself better, move forward from that point. Commit to the present moment and doing your very best right here, right now. Be grateful for discovering whatever it was that was holding you back, and make the most of your new understanding by stepping boldly into your brighter future.
5. Pass It On.
One of my life goals is to help others with mental illness. Psychology is a relatively new science, and the human mind is only beginning to be unpicked. It is continually evolving, and we are all a part of that evolution. Having experienced pain and suffering at the hands of mental illness — and having experienced tools and methods that helped me — I am committed to talking about it and sharing what worked for me with everyone and anyone who cares to listen. Maybe I can help a kid step toward mental health and sidestep many years of unnecessary suffering? That there is a great motivation. Be part of the healing process, and encourage your fellow travelers with any advice that has helped you in your journey toward good mental health.
Robin J. Hall is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.